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Mats continued his story of Lucky and Josea.
The years passed, twenty of them. More children came. Timmy took a bride. The land continued to prosper. Few died, so there were many people now, and much of the forest was cleared for farms. Others became soldiers or sailors. Their voyages and battles all prospered, and they returned home laden with booty. The gods were with them, people said, for they were virtuous and deserving folk. Skyrim was united now under King Vrage the Gifted, second and noblest son of the legendary Harald of Ysgramoor, thus Josea's king was high king of all Skyrim. The Nords under Vrage's leadership spread into Morrowind and High Rock, conquering some of the sly and thievish dark elves and the weak and superstitious Bretons.
Josea and Lucky had opened a store and built a fine big house for their family. One night Josea awoke alone, and heard voices in the hall. She left her bed and crept to see. The voices sounded angry!
Lucky was standing there in his nightshirt; the passing years had changed him little. He looked no older, but he had grown leaner and paler, and somehow less substantial. Standing with him were a tall matronly woman, dark haired, and clad in a fine blue robe, a knight in black armor, carrying a black sword and a handsome blond man, greenclad, with a bow. Two elves were there as well, one fair and one with golden skin; one had a harp, the other a lute. Elves had not been seen in Skyrim in years! How did quiet simple Lucky come to know such grand people?
"Is this how you keep your pact with us? Did we not make the rules clear to you?"
The woman was shouting at Lucky, who only muttered, "Lady Mara, I didn't realize it had been so long. It was only for a few days ... and then a few days more. And then there were the children and Josea needed me. I thought no harm. Things seemed to go well for everyone. It hasn't been so long. Tamriel did well enough without me before." Lucky spoke softly, yet his face was set and Josea knew how stubborn he could be.
"Such shy folk ... I tried," Lucky faltered. "I did try. The ice elves were very hard to find, and not that friendly when I did find them."
"Are all the elves to follow them, and the Bretons, and then the other races?"
"I'll go; I will go. But High Rock and Morrowind are so far from here. And how can I leave my children? Surely, I am entitled to children? And my woman ..."
"You could have arranged matters as I did," said the green clad ranger. "Now it's too late for that. Matters have gone too far. We trusted you. It was a simple assignment. Yet we should have watched him." This last sentence was addressed to the black knight.
"I did watch him," the knight snapped, waving his sword, which Josea now saw was actually a part of his arm. "Yet alone I could do nothing! I'd few devotees in either High Rock or Morrowind. Once I realized I knew I had to find the rest of you; alone I could do little. What I could, I did. They're halted for now, yet the damage must be repaired, and he who caused it must do the fixing, Tinker! It won't be easy. You'll have to avoid the Skyrim folk altogether for a couple of hundred years, I think."
"No! My Lord Ebonarm, no!" The cry was wrenched from Lucky's heart. "I cannot. I implore you. Do not ask it of me ... leave me something of my own! Why must I always give it all to others? I'm tired of it! You promised me a life, and what you gave me, that endless wandering, was not a life!" The black knight Ebonarm scowled back at Lucky.
"We are a gentle folk," the wood elf bard said in his musical voice, "yet Zenithar can no longer be restrained. And if he wars against you, the other elven gods stand with him! If the gods war, Tamriel itself may be destroyed. You may find daedra to stand with you; they love chaos. But I think you will find that not even Springseed, Ebonarm and Mara will fight for you if you defy them further."
"Jephre speaks truth, as ever. Let us not speak of war among ourselves, my friend. We wished your folk no ill. We deeply regret what has happened and will labor to repair our fault. I regret our long absence, yet it was necessary. Raen and I were needed -- elsewhere." Mara said. "And not even a god, or a goddess, can be everywhere at once.
"As for you, Sai," she said, turning to Lucky, "One night a year with your woman and your children I will grant you. But not in the flesh. The temptations are too strong for you, I see. It was a mistake to let you hold the flesh so long. I apologize to the rest of you. Now, go and make your farewells. You are dismissed."
The knight and ranger vanished, but the elves remained. The golden skinned one spoke to Mara, "Watch these new folk of yours more carefully, Lady Mara. We are a patient people, and kindly disposed to other sentient races, yet there are limits to our patience. Take warning." Then the elves too were gone.
Lucky fell to his knees, clutching at Mara's robe, his face a mask of anguish, "Lady, wait! I implore you. Am I never to feel again? Never? It is more than I can bear. The rest of you can assume mortal form on occasion. Better I should have died naturally, and gone to rest," he added bitterly.
Mara considered, frowning. "Others have paid dearly for the life you have stolen. Their spirits are not at rest; they too will exact payment. And yet ...very well. If you will labor to repair the damage you have done, then you may on occasion assume bodily form, but not as human. Wolf shape shall be yours, in return for the kindness you showed Grellan."
And she was gone, leaving Lucky standing alone, barefoot. Josea ran to him and clasped him ... oh, how thin and cold he was!
"What is it, dearest? Who were they? What does it mean? Oh, don't leave us!"
"I must," he said, shivering. "I have stayed far too long. My dearest, I am Luck itself. I was born with the talent, though mortal as yourself. My lord took me for a soldier. I was killed in my first battle, even as the battle was won. I e'er brought luck to others, ne'er to myself, never. Ebonarm appeared to me, said I had an interesting talent and offered me immortality if I would agree to spread my luck about.
"He said the gods were overworked, seeing to events, and constantly quarreling over what should happen. He thought that I could balance things out naturally with my inborn talent. I was young. I'd barely lived. I didn't want to die, so I agreed, and Ebonarm said that I could keep my body for a time. I wouldn't age or die, but I would fade slowly, as you have seen. I am nearly eighty now. I did as he bade for many years. Then I met you, and found myself trapped by your need, I think. I was your Luck, you see, what you needed. And truth is, I needed you, too, my dear love.
"Yet while I've stayed here, my luck has spread like ripples, strongest in the center, weak along the edges until there's none at all in Morrowind and High Rock and the Wilderness to the south, and the folk are dead or chained in slavery. Also I've brought luck only to the Nords among whom I've lived, so that the wood elves have fled and the ice elves have died. Now I must go, and bring Luck back to them and redress the balance, as it should have been."
He went to the children's rooms and kissed them as they slept, while his tears fell on them. Then he said, "I'll be with you one night each year, though you will not see me. Yet you will feel my presence, dearest. Oh, and I could never speak of love or marriage ... but know I love you, as no man or god loved woman." Then he kissed her one last time, and was gone.
Mats stopped talking at last. The fire had burned down to ashes. Edward drew a long breath.
"That's some story," Edward said. "Is it true?"
"Are you calling my grandmother a liar? I know she used to leave a bit of food and a bowl of milk out on winter nights. 'For the Wolf,' she said. And we Nords hold it very unlucky to attack a wolf unless it attacks you. It just might be Sai!
"My grandmother said she got the tale from her great-grandmother, and her great was Josea herself. So she said. Or maybe it was her great-great-grandmother. I get lost there. Anyway it happened during the reign of King Vrage the Gifted, like I said, when the Nords invaded Morrowind and High Rock. It took Sai a hundred and fifty years to get things set right again, and he needed a lot of help. From Moraelyn's brothers and father, among others. The dark elves and Bretons have been lucky to get their lands back, you see, and it's been hard times for Skyrim folk, although once your luck builds up the way theirs did, it takes a long time to really run out altogether. And Sai didn't make the same mistake again. He's been spreading luck around ever since. Otherwise folk get arrogant and start thinking they're entitled to more than others. Yet he's kept his promise. You see, I'm his descendant and once a year I feel his presence. That was tonight."
"I thought being a god means you can do just as you please," Edward said.
"Well, they can, you see. Sai did, for awhile, but he and his fellow gods weren't pleased with the results. There's rules to being a god, it seems, just as there are rules to being a man or a boy."
"Who makes the rules then?" Edward demanded.
Mats laughed. "Best save that question up for the Archmagister. It's much too deep for me! Well, I don't know about you, but I'm going to have a drink -- I'm parched after so much talking -- and then rouse Mith, so I can sleep myself."
"Mats, I was taught that Moraelyn's father and brothers were just raiders and that the Nords were the real owners of the lands they took. That the dark elves come up out of the ground and raid for meanness and profit."
"Moraelyn's father, Kronin, and his brothers, Cruethys and Ephen, took to raiding after the Nords drove them out of Ebonheart. Guerilla warfare isn't pretty, but neither is losing your homeland. Human memories of that time are faded hand-me-downs, but there's a fair number of dark elves who lived through it still around. Moraelyn's aunt Yoriss for one, she who rules in Kragenmoor. Oh, there's some dark elves still, along the borderland in Blacklight, who are just thieves and kidnappers, no question. They have holds up in the mountain caverns and raid farms and villages in east Skyrim. But Moraelyn's folk have naught to do with them, leastways not since they regained their own lands in Morrowind. Moraelyn hates the raiding. He'd stop it if he could." Mats sighed.
"Why can't he?"
Mats yawned widely. "That's a matter of politics and power, boy. You ask him about it, and you'll likely get more answer than you want, for once. Me, I'm off to bed. Good night."